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Books on Thomas Jefferson

American Revolution & Founding Fathers History

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1asukamaxwell
Edited: Jan 17, 2010, 12:25pm Top

I'm starting a Jefferson book collection, and I was wondering if anyone could recommend good Jefferson biographies or books relating to Jefferson.

Ones I Already Have:

Adams – Jefferson Letters, The edited by Lester J. Capton
American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis
Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Jefferson
Dinner at Mr. Jefferson’s by Charles A. Cerami
Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, The
Inner Jefferson, The: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist by Andrew Burstein
Jefferson Bible, The by Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson's Great Gamble: The Remarkable Story of... by Charles Cerami
Jefferson Himself: The Personal Narrative of a Many-Sided American ed. by Bernard Mayo
Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and... by Joseph Wheelan
Jefferson: The Virginian by Dumas Malone
Lost World of Thomas Jefferson, The by Daniel J. Boorstein
Mr. Jefferson's Women by Jon Kukla
Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson
Quotations of Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson: A Life by Willard Sterne Randall
Thomas Jefferson: American Humanist by Karl Lehmann
Thomas Jefferson: Passionate Pilgrim by Alf J. Mapp
Thomas Jefferson: Scientist by Edwin T. Martin
Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity by Alf J. Mapp
Tom Jefferson: A Boy in Colonial Days by Helen A. Monsell
Twilight at Monticello by Alan Pell Crawford
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the… by Stephen Ambrose
Wolf by the Ears, The: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery by F. Thornton Miller
Young Jefferson: 1743 - 1789, The by Claude G. Bowers

2rocketjk
Jan 19, 2010, 4:15pm Top

Two I own that are not on your list are:

America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the First Contested Election by Bernard A. Weisberger
Basic Writings of Thomas Jefferson

Havn't read either, though.

3asukamaxwell
Jan 19, 2010, 6:07pm Top

Thanks! :)

5asukamaxwell
Jan 21, 2010, 1:30pm Top

Thanks! Two of those I didn't have on my wishlist, although I've read Merrill D. Peterson's book before. I had such a beautiful copy from the library with gold-lined pages and a thick read leather bound with gold print for the title. I didn't want to give it back! >

6JNagarya
Jan 21, 2010, 3:46pm Top

"I didn't want to give it back!"

Except for occasional research I don't use libraries. In fact I hate libraries: one borrows a book, falls in love with it, then has to give it back.

7CritEER
Jan 27, 2010, 9:03am Top

Regarding Jefferson, one book I have in my library, but have yet to read, is "One Nation Under Debt: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We Owe" by Robert Wright. I first flagged this book while surfing through Amazon...the reader and editorial reviews were impressive.

One aspect of the revolutionary era that interest me is the political difference between Hamilton (Federalist) and Jefferson (Republican) camps. Hamilton and Jefferson had vastly different ideas on the economic future of the new country...Hamilton wanted to build the U.S. economy based on the highly successful British system of national banks, commerce, manufacturing and government debt. Jefferson was against everything British and was against a strong federal government and associated government spending/debt.

8CritEER
Jan 27, 2010, 9:03am Top

Regarding Jefferson, one book I have in my library, but have yet to read, is "One Nation Under Debt: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We Owe" by Robert Wright. I first flagged this book while surfing through Amazon...the reader and editorial reviews were impressive.

One aspect of the revolutionary era that interest me is the political difference between Hamilton (Federalist) and Jefferson (Republican) camps. Hamilton and Jefferson had vastly different ideas on the economic future of the new country...Hamilton wanted to build the U.S. economy based on the highly successful British system of national banks, commerce, manufacturing and government debt. Jefferson was against everything British and was against a strong federal government and associated government spending/debt.

9asukamaxwell
Jan 28, 2010, 12:38am Top

Thanks! I'll add it to the list. As much as I enjoy reading about Jefferson, I like books that focus on his relationships, whether they be friendship or rivalries, with other founding fathers. :)

10quicksiva
Edited: Mar 18, 2010, 10:28pm Top

Hello,
Can any one tell me of a good book on T. I. and his relationship with Constantin-François Chassebœuf A.K.A. Count Volney? I have been led to believe that T.I. Translated Volney's radical Ruins of Empires, while in Paris. How did this translation play with the folks back home? Did Jefferson emend his translation to make it politically correct?
Thanks,
Viator

11jbd1
Mar 21, 2010, 8:35am Top

quicksiva - as I mentioned in another thread, I'd suggest contacting member ThomasCWilliams, whose profile is chock full of information on Jefferson's Volney work.

Regarding the translation - it's important to note that Jefferson's hand in making the English translation was not made public during his lifetime. This work may be of some interest as well.

12quicksiva
Mar 21, 2010, 3:54pm Top

Thanx jbd1, I've looked at both sites.
Seeya

13quicksiva
Edited: Mar 22, 2010, 5:39pm Top

>11 jbd1: Regarding the translation - it's important to note that Jefferson's hand in making the English translation was not made public during his lifetime.

Thanx jbd1,
Maybe the ambassador couldn't think of a diplomatic way to explain these words to the people of Virginia..

"Those piles of ruins which you see in that narrow valley watered by the Nile, are the remains of opulent cities, the pride of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. Behold the wrecks of her metropolis, of Thebes with her hundred palaces, the parent of cities and the monument of the caprice of destiny. There a people, now forgotten, discovered while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the study of the laws of nature , those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe. Lower down those dusky points are the pyramids whose masses have astonished you. Beyond that, the coast, hemmed in between the sea and a narrow ridge of mountains was the habitation of the Phoenicians. These were the famous cities of Tyre, of Sidon, of Ascalon, of Gaza, and of Berytus. "

Ruins of Empires
Count Constantine Francis Chassebeuf De Volney - 1793 Translation by Thomas Jefferson, and Joel Barlow

Viator

14ThomasCWilliams
Apr 18, 2010, 1:58am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

15anthonywillard
Oct 27, 2010, 12:45pm Top

For Jefferson's writings, there are The Portable Jefferson and the Library of America Writings.

16cynthiarebecca
Oct 27, 2010, 12:53pm Top

Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence - Garry Wills

I just picked it up from the library so can't comment on it, but I am looking forward to reading it.

17BorislavPekic
Dec 19, 2010, 8:16pm Top

Prof Darren Staloff provides a useful bibliography to his lecture: "Thomas Jefferson: American Visionary" - I have it as a pdf but am not sure how to make it available here or if it is even appropriate?

18JNagarya
Edited: Mar 28, 2011, 3:26am Top

#7 --

Jefferson was against a strong, central Federal gov't? Aside from the fact that that those who held that view lost the argument, the allegedly "anti-gov't" Jefferson wrote, in the catalog of complaints ostensibly against King George III, in the "Declaration of Independence":

"King George III has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the Civil Power."

The "Civil Power" is civilian gov't, which would certainly have to be both centralized and powerful to ensure that the military was kept subordinate to the civilian gov't.

Regardless his private opinion, that is an official statement against the "anti-gov't" view too often attributed to him. We see the same view expressed again and again, one by "radical" Gov. Samuel Adams:

"The military power is always in exact subordination to the Civil Power."

The "Civil Power" is, again, the civilian gov't.

And in the debates of the Bill of Rights, specifically that which would become the Second Amendment, the premise of the debate being national defense, the question was whether to rely on a standing army -- "the bane of liberty"; i.e., threat to civilian gov't -- or the militia, the decision was to rely on the militia (which the Founders/Framers well knew was ineffective, at least as concerns being such a threat; as noted in The Federalist, had winning the "revolution" depended on the militia, it would have been lost). See Creating the Bill of Rights: The Documentary History from the First Federal Congress (Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 1991), Ed. by Helen E. Veit, et al. Of particular note is the comment during those debates by anti-Federalist Congressman Elbridge Gerry:

"What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty." Id, at 182.

19pre20cenbooks
Jan 3, 2011, 5:52am Top

Jefferson Image in the American Mind author merrill D. Peterson I saw the author in the touchstones but not this book.

20mattcrow
Mar 28, 2011, 1:16am Top

Anthony Wallace, Jefferson and the Indians: The Tragic Fate of the First Americans (which talks about Volney a bit)

Jay Fliegelman, Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of Performance

Gary Nash and Graham Hodges, Friends of Liberty

Charles Miller, Jefferson and Nature

Peter Onuf, Jefferson's Empire and The Mind of Thomas Jefferson

Seeing Jefferson Anew

Frank Cogliano, Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy

Onuf, ed., Jeffersonian Legacies

David Mayers, The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson

Edward Dumbauld, Thomas Jefferson and the Law

Richard K. Matthews, The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson

Hannah Arendt, On Revolution

Frank Dewey, Thomas Jefferson: Lawyer

Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello

Herbert Sloan, Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt

Pauline Maier, American Scripture

Henry Adams, History of the United States, 1801-1809, 1809-1817

Max Beloff, Thomas Jefferson and American Democracy

Adams, The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson

Fawn Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate Portrait

Joyce Appleby, Thomas Jefferson

Kevin Hayes, The Road to Monticello

Henry Steele Commager, Jefferson, Nationalism, and Enlightenment

Forest McDonald, The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson

are a few good ones

21quicksiva
Mar 28, 2011, 8:40pm Top

Jefferson's Secrets by Andrew Burstein deals with Jefferson's latter years.

22wfupianoman
Edited: Jul 9, 2011, 12:48am Top

I was delighted to see the interest in developing a Jefferson book collection, which is something I've been interested in for a few years. Thanks for the suggestions for books, some of which are new to me. I have a few more to add to the list.

Madison and Jefferson by Burstein and Isenberg
Thomas Jefferson Draftsman of a Nation by Bober
The Failure of the Founding Fathers: Jefferson, Marshall, and the Rise of Presidential Democracy by Ackerman
A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase by Kukla
The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution by O'Brien
Jefferson Champion of the Free Mind by Russell
Jefferson's Demons by Beran
Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power by Wills
Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase by Kennedy
Norman Risjord's Thomas Jefferson
The Women Jefferson Loved by Scharff
Jefferson War and Peace 1776 to 1784 by Kimball
Man From Monticello by Fleming

24elenchus
Edited: Apr 9, 2012, 1:05pm Top

>16 cynthiarebecca:

Any report on the Wills book, Inventing America?

It's one of my very favourites on American history, on political theory, and for that matter, in general for a well-considered examination of ideas and their influence. I'm looking to re-read again this year, and always appreciate the insights of others on books I'm impressed with (if only to check my enthusiasm). It's got quite a bit on Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, and how the final document departed from Jefferson's vision.

25dyarington
Apr 11, 2012, 11:27am Top

TJ would roll over in his grave if he knew so many books were written about him. What a great guy!

26quicksiva
Apr 11, 2012, 2:00pm Top

Are there any studies of the 1787 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Morocco and The United States? It was signed by both Jefferson and Adams.

28wfupianoman
Apr 25, 2012, 5:41pm Top

I totally agree. As someone who did not consider his Presidency worthy of listing on his tombstone, he would probably be offended authors weren't spending time reading or writing about ancient Greek philosophers instead of him!

30lawecon
Jul 21, 2012, 12:21am Top

If you are interested in Jefferson, you might be interested in this site: http://www.jeffersonhour.com/

31HectorSwell
Mar 29, 2013, 10:26pm Top

The recently published The Master of the Mountain pretty much puts the lie to Jefferson as a man of the Enlightenment.

32southernbooklady
Mar 29, 2013, 10:48pm Top

33BKyleAuthor
Mar 30, 2013, 8:34am Top

Two books on Jefferson that I highly recommend are Jon Meacham's doorstopper "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" and "Thomas Jefferson: Author of America" by the inimitable Christopher Hitchens

34HectorSwell
Mar 30, 2013, 12:14pm Top

>32 southernbooklady:
I think Annette Gordon-Reed engages in hyperbole in claiming that Wiencek’s book is a “takedown,” that Wiencek “loathes” Jefferson, presents Jefferson as “demonic,” a “Simon Legree.” I did not get that sense from reading the book.

She is right to point out that some of Wiencek’s interpretations are questionable. Her review focuses on the four-percent theorem, slave collars, and the Kosciusko will. None of those are critical to Wiencek’s presentation.

It is true that little of Wiencek’s material represents new discoveries, but I was fascinated by the details of how Monticello was run (as both a business enterprise and a slave-labor-supported plantation) and the stories of the interactions between families, slave and free. I think Wiencek wants to push past the seemingly irresolvable paradox of Jefferson. I’m not sure he succeeds.

Nothing new, I guess. One’s view of Jefferson (and all the Founders) still depends upon one’s view of slavery.

35southernbooklady
Mar 30, 2013, 5:23pm Top

>34 HectorSwell: Thanks, Hector. I've read Gordon-Reed but not the Wiencek book and the degree to which each were invested in proving a particular point has me approaching both with extreme caution.

36jztemple
Mar 31, 2013, 5:37pm Top

I recently finished Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. I thought it was very good and an interesting approach for a biography.

37wfupianoman
May 5, 2013, 4:26pm Top

Jztemple, did you read Meacham's previous book on Andrew Jackson? I was wondering how his Jefferson book compared to that Pulitzer Prize winning work. What did you find so interesting in his approach to Jefferson? I'm looking forward to reading it myself.

38wfupianoman
May 5, 2013, 4:38pm Top

Here are a few more books to add to the shelves:

Jefferson The Road to Glory: 1743 to 1776 by Marie Kimball
The Head and Heart of Thomas Jefferson by John Dos Passos
Thomas Jefferson American Tourist by Edward Dumbault
Thomas Jefferson Travels Selected Writings edited by Anthony Brandt
Flight From Monticello Thomas Jefferson at War by Michael Kranish
Jefferson Magnificent Populist by Martin Larson
The Essence of Jefferson edited by Martin Larson
Thomas Jefferson The Man His World by Lally Weymouth
The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson by Wendell Garrett
Jefferson A Revealing Biography by Page Smith
Thomas Jefferson by Gene Lisitzky

39jztemple
May 5, 2013, 7:45pm Top

>37 wfupianoman: No, I didn't read his previous book... yet. I do have it on my shelf.

I found the Jefferson bio interesting because rather than the usual "he went there, did this, said that", it was much more about how his background, education, experience and intelligence forged what he thought and did, and how what he thought and did affected his world. That's a poor explanation, really, it's kind of hard to explain. I recommend reading a sample from Amazon to get a feel for his style.

40southernbooklady
May 5, 2013, 9:33pm Top

Meacham's biography is one of the few political biographies I've read of Jefferson that weights his actions as a leader, and their real-world results, as strongly as his ideals, as we know them from his many many writings. He treats Jefferson as idealist with a steady streak of pragmatism, something almost no one else has thought him capable of. And Meacham doesn't get overly hung up on the supposed contradictions between what Jefferson said, and what he did.

He does hang his analysis on a couple of overall assumptions, though, one of which being that Jefferson was distrustful to the point of paranoia about the British. So he tends to view everything, such as the lengths Jeffersonians went to in order to defeat the Federalists (especially Hamilton), with that lens firmly fixed. As a result, some of the things he gives as explanations for Jefferson's actions, sound more like excuses.

But it's a well-thought out book nonetheless. I really enjoyed it.

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